During the course, an idea from a conversation with my father came along. On a rainy evening in Singapore, he said that at the request of a friend, the then Additional Director General of Police of Prisons, he had visited a prison in Tamil Nadu. The request to my father was to help the prisoners manufacture shoes better and in a more efficient manner. This being the first time for me hearing anything about prisons, other than my common knowledge at the time from movies like most people, inmates breaking bricks or playing a big boss villain (which by the way is super far away from the truth) made me think about the possibilities. Questions started popping up to find out more. Could this activity of footwear manufacturing be explored, would it be possible to actually work with inmates and tap into such a huge untapped potential workforce, would a company be able to produce footwear from a prison and sell it to the world and brand it as a socially responsible initiative??
The inquisition at the time was at peak. I put in all the time I had into finding answers and learning about the prisons of India, the statistics, was there any private company working with prisoners, how safe would the environment be, what would be the costs, how would the model be set, and I knew then, that this was the topic for my dissertation—a realistic business model, a postgraduate’s dream. I knew I had found something to look forward to again. It gave me the strength to hope and believe again. It took me about three months to complete my research and by the end of the dissertation I was convinced, there is a problem and that I had a realistic solution. After all that’s what MBA was all about, finding a solution after identifying a problem, or is that the mantra to a business idea?
Seaming together: This was the beginning of a new chapter. I knew a little about the trade of leather and footwear through my father and grandfather’s many endeavours during their journey as businessmen. It helped me gather a lot of data and connect with the who’s who of the footwear industry in India. It was important for me to keep the idea a secret until I was ready to begin the start-up journey. My questions along this journey were mostly to understand the trade better and about the problems being faced by the majority. Now the time had come, to start. At first, both my father and grandfather were sceptical. I remember, after two months of convincing, my father agreed to set up a meeting with the Prisons head of Tamil Nadu to discuss my idea with him. That meeting went on for three hours and towards the end of that meeting, I knew that my father was convinced. On our way back in the car, he spoke of the possibilities, and it felt, in that moment, that someone important had just joined my team. I was not wrong about the feeling. Since that day I may have doubted myself on multiple grim situations but, he has been my pillar, always asking me to trust myself and believe in my own capabilities.